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tv   Weekends With Alex Witt  MSNBC  December 23, 2018 9:00am-10:00am PST

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that's our show for today. tune in next week for more a.m. joy. up next, my girl, alex witt. i miss you so much now that you're not here to enjoy the whackiness with us. >> we made a promise to each
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other and to the viewers we will do a girls road trip. we will ring it in then. happy christmas to you, my dear friend. thank you so much, everybody. good day to all of you. i'm alex witt. here's what's happening. shutdown day two, president trump stuck at the white house, legislators head home for the holiday. newly appointed acting white house chief on staff on who is going to pay for the wall. >> department of homeland security can't actually spend money from mexico. we have to get it from the treasury. and democrating pointing the blame at one man. >> it really is in the president's hands to decide. he says it's an issue of border security. i think we know better. it is an issue of his own political insecurity. >> a wall by any other name, when is a wall not a wall. what exactly are slats, and do any of these word games mean anything with respect to the
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shutdown. plus, a missteysterious development in the mueller investigation. does it matter for the president? just getting word we're going to break in right now with this news by way of tweet via the president. he is announcing that outgoing secretary of defense james mattis, who was supposed to stay in his post until february is officially out on new years day. instead, the president tweeting just moments ago, quote, i am pleased to announce that our very talented deputy secretary of defense patrick shanahan will assume the title of acting secretary of defense starting january 1st, 2019. patrick has a long list of accomplishments. he will be great. more reaction and news on that front. we'll have the white house weighing in on that in a moment. meanwhile, it seems the president has made an offer to end the partial government shutdown, now demanding less than the $5 billion he wanted to build the border wall. a white house budget director and the incoming chief of staff
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mick mulvaney said the offer was made to chuck schumer. >> we had given an offer, a counter offer to mr. schumer late yesterday afternoon. i don't think things are going to move very quickly here for the next couple of days. it is possible this shutdown will go beyond the 28th and into the new congress. >> the offer is somewhere between $5 billion and $1.6 billion. but yesterday a spokesperson for mr. schumer said they are still very far apart. now entering its 37th hour, it is expected to be the longest government shutdown under the trump administration. more signs that house democrats may have to join the fight to fund the government. nancy pelosi assuring democrats she won't cave citing she is willing to make opening the government the first order of business when democrats take control of the house on january 3rd. meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of federal workers working
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without pay, what is driving the president's demands? >> it really is in the president's hands to decide. he says it is an issue of border security. i think we know better. it is an issue of his own political insecurity. when the right wingers start screaming at him, he just backs off and dissembles in front of us. and rand paul considering the potential fiscal consequences of using $5 bilrso wall. >> we're going to shut it down purposefully, but i've not been a fan of keeping it open and spending so much money that we're bankrupting the country. this year the deficit will be about a trillion dollars. i would find it and pay for it. >> we have reaction and analysis to the full scope of events from both ends of pennsylvania avenue. all the new developments as well in just the past hour or so. okay. jeff, we're going to get to the shutdown in a moment, but first the president's announcement just a few minutes ago.
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what prompted this? >> reporter: our colleague who covers the pentagon and who has been all over this story today reports that president trump, according to her sources, was upset over this narrative that defense secretary jim mattis, the outgoing defense secretary, was seen as the last adult in the room, this notion that jim mattis was the last member of the cabinet standing who could reign in some of donald trump's more combative and isolationist impulses. this decision also follows the angry tweet from last night where he says when president obama fired jim mattis, i gave him a second chance. some thought i shouldn't. i thought i should. remember, jim mattis's resignation was seen as a clear rebuke of donald trump's world view and his actions to withdraw troops from syria and to order the pentagon to come up with a draw down plan for troops in afghanistan. so jim mattis will complete his tenure at the end of the year, the president says. stepping in is the deputy defense secretary patrick
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shanahan who has been with the administration since april of 2017. at the time he was a boeing executive. and as the deputy defense secretary, he's taken the lead role, alex, in helping to create the space force. that would be the sixth branch of the military. it is the thing that always gets the most applause at the trump campaign rallies or the ones he held before the midterms. that is one way that shanahan got on president trump's radar. >> okay. we will talk more about this, but i do want to get to mick mulvaney saying there is an offer on the table with regard to the government shutdown. what do we know about that? >> reporter: he says the white house is coming down a bit, but he wants democrats to come up from the $1.6 billion that the senate has already locked in for border security. so here is mulvaney speaking on one of the sunday shows about that very fact. >> i think it is important that everyone understands the language that everyone is using. the president tweeted out a
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picture yesterday of a steel fence, the steel slatted fence with the pointed top and so forth. that's what we want to build. in the democrats mind, that is not a wall. they have offered us $1.3 billion to build the barrier that we want, whether they go on tv and say there is no money for a wall. we told the democrats we want to build what the president tweeted out. it doesn't have to be 30 foot high concrete. we were at $5 billion a couple days ago. the counter offer we gave them yesterday was between those two numbers. >> reporter: so how much money is on the table? our reporting is that the white house is offering democrats somewhere in the range of $2 billion. we're told that chuck schumer told the vice president that that wasn't good enough. this is a reflection of the fact that democrats believe they have all the leverage, that they're holding all the cards in this debate. a senior administration official tells us and you heard mick mulvaney say this as well that at this point the white house doesn't care what kind of barrier is. what they want is for democrats
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to agree to some kind of physical barrier along the border as part of this spending deal that could then get the government back up and running. so the big points of contention are what kind of barrier and how much money will congress have to fork over for it. >> but definitely something physical. they want something that everybody can see and point to, correct? >> reporter: right. >> okay. thank you so much. we'll see you next hour. let's go to capitol hill. by all accounts at this hour it is a ghost town. except for our good friend mike who is there. hello to you. is there anyone there that's even able to work on a response to mick mulvaney and the white house offer there? any democrats there? or are we just in a wait and see point here for a response? i think wait and see is about right. not a creature is stirring here on capitol hill, alex. i haven't seen a member. i haven't seen a staff er.
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i haven't heard of a member or staffer here in the complex, whether here in the office buildings or around the senate chamber itself. i mean, let's just be honest here. mick mulvaney actually came clean and said this likely is going to last until january 3rd. that is the constitutionally mandated date of the first day of congress. that is when democrats take over the house. nancy pelosi in that memo you just showed on screen says they will act very quickly to pass a spending bill to keep the government, the quarter of the government that is now shut re-opened. it has been demonstrated that the senate has the votes to do that. they have already voted for it. they voted for it overwhelmingly last week before the president pulled the rug out on the house of representatives. the senate will pass it. the house will pass it. on january 3rd. the question still remains will the president veto it? if he does veto it, is there the
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wildly improbable possibility that the congress has the votes to override that veto. this distinction and the assertion that the democrats would be fine with a slat fence, we will have to do a fact check on that. if there were any dems around, we would ask them. that pretty much came out of nowhere. no one is copping to ever having seen that before, including these little finials on top there. so a lot of things are up in the air. one that's certain is the 800,000 individuals and contract rs who depend on the federal government for their pay. their futures are uncertain when they will be paid, when they can come back to work. >> all right. we're glad to have you there. thank you so much. we will get more on this breaking news we mentioned at the top of the hour. the fact that james mattis is out earlier than expected, he
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will be out as of january 1st, replaced by a deputy. let's go right now to white house correspondent from the daily mail, white house reporter for "the wall street journal," washington correspondent for "the new york times." vivian, i want to go to you first. based on your background working in iraq, all of this having surrounded the james mattis earlier than expected departure, the fact that you were there in iraq during the rise and fall of isis, you have seen how this works firsthand. you have been reporting on mattis for a few years. what do you make of this updated departure? >> it is interesting because there has been a lot of talk about mattis being particularly aggressive because he would want to stay for a prolonged military campaign. from my experience of being on the ground in 2014, no one wanted to go to war at that point. there was a lot of distaste for any military campaigning following the 2003 u.s.-led invasion. the real issue was stabilizing
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the region. isis had taken over at that point about a third of iraq and syria. and the united states felt it had no other choice but to help its allies in the region contain the problem so that it doesn't spill over to other regions. that is something that mattis to this day has really been pushing, is that the region is still not ready to stand on its own two feet. it needs its allies like the united states, like european allies, this coalition that's been built over the last couple of years in order to contain that problem. and in pulling out and withdrawing so abruptly, as the president decided to do in the last couple of days, that really countered any of the advice a lot of his military advisers. this is something that countering everything they have been advising him to do. >> charlie, i want you to weigh in on all of this. the president had announced that mattis will be retiring in february. there has been a lot of back and forth, much of which of it being
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discussed right here. but the fact that this is moved up to january 1st, strategic do you think? p pet y what do you think? >> president trump didn't like the idea that the narrative was general mattis had quit in disgust. so he's flipping the script. this is like, you can't quit. i fire you. >> right. but why then say -- why put a glowing tweet out there when announcing this and say -- look, he's retiring in february. the rank of top general and with quite the resume that he brings to his retirement based on all the years of service, why now change? is anybody going to interpret this as anything but the president being mad? >> you're asking me to articulate rational that's coherent about why president trump acted capriciously and changed his approach to something?
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i mean, this is the movie we have been living through for two years. >> good point. all right. what do you think about mattis's letter? how much do you think that was at the crux of what has just happened in this last half hour? >> it's very clear the president didn't like the way that it was being covered in the media, and that's why he moved the time line up because, as you noted, he originally said he will be retiring. it will be in february. and then after democrats on capitol hill. but not just democrats, many republicans who typically side with the president said they found it troubling and that they were surprised that they did not think the president should be pulling out of syria, then of course he came back and changed his mind and said, as charlie was saying, no, you're not quitting. i'm firing you. you can leave right now. so i have to agree with him on his interpretation of why this happened. you saw this morning on the sunday shows, more republicans coming out and saying they disagreed with this decision and they would have some serious questions for whatever the president had named. he had named the replacement at that point yet and knowing that
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these hearings to confirm the new department of defense head would even get some pushback from republicans in there asking some serious questions about how this person would counter the president if they think the president is wrong on something like syria in the future. >> vivian, what do you know about the defense secretary, the new acting one and currently deputy patrick shanahan? >> so patrick shanahan was an executive with boeing prior to taking any role. he was looked at in 2017 as a possible candidate for the defense secretary job, essentially being passed over and mattis taking the job as a decorated dpen r ed general. but he is described as being more of a businessman than a policy guy. >> i was going to ask. does he have any military experience himself? >> some, yeah, but ultimately it's really his business experience that paints his reputation in this town.
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so it is going to be very interesting, you know, heading the military and especially when we've got two very significant military withdrawal campaigns in the works, of course, because the president is also exploring withdrawal from afghanistan as well. he's got a very, very difficult job ahead and one where, you know, it's questionable. a lot of military leaders would say you do need extensive military expense in order to lead such a mission. so it will be very interesting moving forward. of course, he is acting defense secretary. he's been named acting. we know that, as senator tom cotton is another person explored for the job. it will be interesting to see how that plays out. but nothing is set in stone as of yet. >> for sure. all right. let's move on to the shutdown with senator bob corker who had tough words for the president and the way he's handling all of this. let's take a listen to that. >> just about the money. i's about what we're spending it
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on. we could secure our borders. we could solve this problem. this is a made-up fight. >> you're saying president trump if he wants that money, he could get it. but he needs to make a deal. but he doesn't want to make a deal. he just wants a campaign issue. am i hearing it correctly? >> it has to be that because this is like falling off the table. the democrats easily would support more border funding, border security. this is something that's unnecessary. it is a spectacle and candidly, it's juvenile. >> is this true, charlie, the democrats would easily fund border security even for far more, but the president doesn't want it? >> what the democrats say is they don't want to pay for a wall. and, you know, putting aside whether that means a big concrete structure or whether the semantic difference of some see-through steel slats would do
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the trick for them, they have drawn a line in the sand of building a wall on the southern border of the united states. it is hard to see why the democrats would back down too much at this point. also, remember, what's on the table here is a continuing resolution, a short-term budget deal that would expire in february anyway. one of the things democrats need or are talking to themselves about is if they bend here and trump gets x billion for something, he may come back and shut down the government down in a couple of weeks. this is sort of a sign of how things will go in the new year with dems having some say in what's going on in congress for the first time in the trump presidency. >> i want to ask you about jared kushner's role in all of this, all these negotiations. he was at the lunch meeting with republicans in the white house yesterday. trailing vice president pence pretty closely. how did he get involved? >> yeah. i think there are a lot of
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surprises to see jared there. but they had just finished the criminal justice reform bill. the president had just signed that when he sent him up on capitol hill. he is someone who is able to work with democrats. thinking that he will be able to work with them on this. but when it comes to this border wall at this point, the definition of the wall does matter here because what democrats previously offered, the $1.6 billion or the $1.3 billion does not allow the president to build any sort of concrete structure. concrete is an important word here, which is why you see the president saying it could be steel slats. you can call it a barrier. you can call it whatever you want because by changing what he wants to do, he could potentially fit in some sort of a border barrier into the existing money that exists, you know, for the border wall. and so that could fit into dewh
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they're offering in a new bill. that is why you see him moving towards these steel slats instead of concrete. >> okay. good to speak with all of you. thanks, guys. up correct, what exactly is president trump's exit strategy from syria and afghanistan? hanin (pirate girl) ahoy!!!!! gotcha! (girl) nooooooooooooo! (man) nooooo! (vo) quick, the quicker picker upper!
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this is a made-up fight so
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the president can look like he's fighting. but even if he wins, our borders are going to be insecure. and part of it is because of what we're spending the money on. >> outgoing republican senator bob corker voicing his concern that a border wall will not alone increase border security. joining me now democratic representative of california, a senior member of the armed services committee. always good to see you, sir, especially on a holiday weekend. thanks for joining me. >> my pleasure. >> do you agree with senator corker? if the wall does not secure the border, if it's not capable of doing that, then what will? i mean, do the democrats have a clear plan to secure the border? is it secure enough as is? what is the overall messaging from democrats on border security? >> well, how about just a little bit of wisdom? how about a serious comprehensive plan about what's going on here? certainly we need border security. this $5 billion for a wall, there is absolutely no plan as
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to where it's going to be, let alone what it is going to be and even more important what good it would do if it would be built. it is 1,700 miles of border between the united states and mexico. where is he going to put this wall? there is no way congress should give him $5 billion basically as a slush fund to do something. is it slats? is it concrete? he has no idea other than a campaign promise. we wouldn't give the military 1$100 million to build a hanger on some airfield without specific plans and justification for doing it. so let's just start with what do you want here, mr. president? why are you going to do it. beyond that, as he says he's concerned about drugs flowing in, the u.s. coast guard confiscated ten times the amount of drugs that the border patrol did, and they confiscated it on the ocean. if it's drugs, you ought to be funding the coast guard.
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we just need a comprehensive plan here. we need this president to stop all of this huffing and puffing, sit down and develop a comprehensive plan. one more thing. you have got to deal with the problem in the central american countries. you have got to deal with the problems of poverty. you have to deal with the problems of crime there. otherwise, people are going to leave. and we should understand that. >> and to your point about drugs coming to this country, i had a guest yesterday talk about the ability for drones now to carry drugs across the border. that's another thing that electronic surveillance could help. this $5 billion, that's a mere down payment. hasn't the estimate been for the totality of a wall to be something like a $20 billion cost? >> we have absolutely no idea. this president has no idea how he wants to build the wall. we have fences along the tijuana
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border and walls other places. that's good. we need fences in some places. but just i want $5 billion, give me my $5 billion or else, we wouldn't do that. come on, mr. president. give us a specific plan why it's where you want it, how it's going to work, if it's slats, if it's concrete or a barbed wire fence. tell us. >> we need to end a government shutdown. >> yes. >> to do that, would the democrats be willing to give the president more than what was the agreed upon price of $1.6 billion at this point? >> certainly. if there is a specific plan and where it's going to be, how it's going to work, how it will improve our security. yes, of course. we could put $5 billion out there and say, this money is available only after you have developed a specific comprehensive plan, where it is, what it's going to do. by the way, we really ought to be improving the ports of entry along the mexican border.
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contraband coming in, it comes in by car, by train, by truck shipments. and our ports of entry are unable to identify which car, which boat -- not a boat in this case, but a train, has the contraband on it. or the people, for that matter. we need a comprehensive plan. we should not give one nickel until we have a specific plan where it is going to be. >> well, clearly. look, this all will be negotiated in the days to come. >> absolutely. >> i'm sure our federal employees affected by this directly hope that as well. congressman, i want to ask you about the breaking news we have with regard to secretary mattis who announced his resignation. the president announced it in somewhat glowing terms. that was the plan by all accounts until this morning.
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now he's being replaced relatively soon, january 1st, by the deputy defense secretary. talk about that, your thoughts on what's happened here in the last 48 hours. >> well, i think this entire country counted on mattis being the adult in the room, the man that had the knowledge, had the insight, had the understanding of what is going on in the middle east, as well as in asia. >> the fact that you said that, the adult in the room, do you think that is a contributing factor as to why mattis is leaving now? that the president hearing that kind of vernacular repeatedly over the last couple of days made him mad? >> read the resignation letter. mattis wasn't fired. mattis resigned in a letter that clearly laid out the differences of fundamental policy that he has with the president. for example, mattis believes that we have to work with our allies, nato and other allies around the world. the president didn't. the president precipitously
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decided to pull out of syria without, apparently, discussing it with mattis or any of his national security team. >> just a phone call with the turkey president. >> he has a fundamental policy difference. he resigned. now this morning the president said, you can't resign. i'm going to fire you. well, okay. the bottom line here is, who is going to be the adult in the room? who is going to be carrying the burden of the department of defense and our enormous and extremely important military? the new gentleman announced as acting comes from boeing. we have a major problem with boeing on the production of the kc-46, the knew aerial tanker. how does that fit in? big question, one that i want to ask. >> that is a big question. very interesting. i had not heard that, but i presume you will be asking that some time in the new year.
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>> exactly. congressman, thank you very much for your time. happy holidays. >> merry christmas and happy holidays to you. did president trump get revelations relating to the russia probe. the russia probe oh!
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the president of the united states is discussing a case in which he is implicated with the attorney general. that is wrong at every level. this is the president ignoring the rule of law, ignoring decades of precedent and policy. this is exactly what we feared about whittaker's appointment. this is a real assault on the rule of law. and we are going to scrutinize every single action by matt whitaker. >> adam schiff's new warning today for president trump as the president berated matt whitaker twice after revelations implicated him in a case against his former attorney michael cohen. joining me now katie fang. listen to what he said there, a real assault on the rule of law. that's a strong statement. what is your take, katie? do you think the president is interfering with an
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investigation? >> absolutely. what is being said by adam schiff, identit's not high hype. donald trump told james comey, can you see if you could maybe let flynn go? we're getting a different context on this when it comes to acting a.g. matt whitaker. we have trump telling whittaker, why are you not controlling your prosecutoring more? you have to show intent. and when you can prove it through circumstantial facts and the circumstances of the case, do you think donald trump is just saying this in passing to matthew whittaker? the answer is no. obstruction of justice is being committed by donald trump. >> this report we're talking about where the president berated matthew whittaker says
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the president did not direct limb to stop the investigation. even if the president isn't directing him, you still feel the same way, that, as you said, it was circumstantial evidence. >> exactly. >> well, alex, think about it. he didn't tell comey stop prosecuting or stop looking at michael flynn. what's happened with the mueller investigation, an obstruction of justice investigation. he doesn't tell whittaker stop prosecuting michael cohen. well, that ship has sailed. we know michael cohen already pled guilty and has been sentenced. he is telling whittaker, why aren't you controlling them more? and this is why it is problematic for donald trump? >> there is an unnamed company owned by an unknown foreign government that is now requesting to take its subpoena battle with the special counsel to the supreme court. what is the likelihood in your mind that the supreme court steps into this fight? >> let's make sure we are clear about this. we do not know that this involved robert mueller and his
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investigation. there is some idea. the rumor mill has it that this has to do with robert mueller. but this is not new law that the supreme court has to decide. this is because of a subpoena that was served by a grand jury that is sitting in the district of columbia where the mueller grand jury is located. and the unidentified company refused to turn the documents over. it's gone all the way up to an appellate court. the appellate court ordered the company to turn it over. they are being held in contempt every day. the supreme court is under no legal obligation, alex, to have to hear this case. >> however, were the supreme court to hear this case and weigh in on it, would this be where we learn where the justices -- and i'm talking about justice brett kavanaugh specifically, where they would stand on obstruction for this president? >> we do know that brett kavanaugh years ago has taken a position concerning whether a president should have to be
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indicted, let alone be investigated either on a civil or a criminal basis when he is a sitting president. and so we know that brett kavanaugh has very clear views and opinions on this. but remember, he had an opportunity a few weeks ago to go counter to progressives or to the democrats and he didn't. maybe brett kavanaugh will follow the rule of law that adam schiff talks about and he will make the right decision if this comes before the supreme court. >> we have a lot more to talk about in the new year. james mattis out earlier than expected. more on this surprise decision next. on next ♪ ♪ ♪ the greatest wish of all is one that brings us together. the final days of wish list are here. sign and drive off in a new lincoln with zero down, zero due at signing, and a complimentary first month's payment.
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back with this breaking news, the president announcing via tweet that outgoing secretary of defense james mattis will now be out on new years day. joining me now executive editor of defense one and national correspondent for the nation. gentlemen, welcome to you. what do you think prompted this time line shift? >> well, it's no surprise, i think. mattis's resignation was one thing, but as soon as he wrote that letter when he made it clear he had zero love lost for the president's policies and, you know, the public outcry about it, it is hard to imagine that mattis could have stayed in office as a dutiful servant for the administration all the way until february 1. so january 1 sounds like a nice round number. but also the defense secretary
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that's coming in, this is the number two ranking official at the pentagon. he's a former boeing executive and he's kind of on trump's side on a lot of issues. he hasn't picked a side on a whole lot of issues. he's been in the news for space force. there is a fight with the air force to keep it within the air force or to make it a separate sixth military branch. patrick shanahan wants that branch. but the most recently porting is that he's lost that fight, that the secretary of the air force has won, and it would remain in the air force. that's not what the president wants. beyond that, we really don't know much about shanahan's views on, you know, things like military intervention in syria. but he will be a place holder until someone else comes along. i would doubt he would be the long-term secretary. >> i will ask john about patrick shanahan. but one question to you. when you say that this upping of the end date for james mattis may be as a result of the resignation letter, are you
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telling me, then thar, that the president did not read his resignation letter and chose to put out this glowing tweet and he didn't read his assessment of the situation with syria and the differences there? >> well, i don't know if it matters when he read it or not. it has been reported that mattis went to the pentagon with the white house with the resignation letter in his back pocket. but we know how this president works. we can manage him saying wonderful flowering things about mattis even after that letter came out not really understanding how to read behind the lines of what that letter was saying. but the avalanche of negative press against the president and the support for jim mattis since then clearly that's not going to sit well with trump. >> right. >> and, frankly, it's pretty normal. if you disagree with the president that much, you should not be sitting around any longer in his cabinet. >> absolutely. there was a statement that said that the defense secretary
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serves at the pleasure of the president. that's certainly -- it is what it is. >> of course, right. >> and the president deserves to have somebody who aligns his views with him. let's talk about who the replacement is in more detail with you, john, because you have an entire chapter on a book you wrote. so what does the president get in patrick shanahan? >> well, he gets a very capable man. shanahan is well educated. he spent roughly 30 years essentially his career at boeing. he is in many senses the embodiment of the military industrial complex, a guy who was on the corporate side throughout his career, now has moved over to the department of defense since trump came in. he is tech savvy. he knows all the weapons systems. he does know the military pretty well, although he's not a military man. he also is a social media --
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active social media participant. in many senses, he is much more like trump in this regard. he certainly, as was referenced before, talked up space force a lot on social media. but he's on social media all the time. he was on within recent hours. and, so, i think that in that sense he's a guy who, you know, could probably sit in a room with trump and get along with him. but the complexity here is he is not -- i would argue he's not a particularly political guy. he's a corporate guy. he got along quite well with a lot of democrats when he was at boeing. i do have some doubts about whether he is a guy that will end up as the permanent secretary of defense. >> you don't think that is very likely. you think he will be acting for a brief period of time? >> i have covered donald trump a lot. and i can tell you this. donald trump assesses people, not before he puts them in position, but basically as they're around him.
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so if shanahan goes over well with trump and if they get along, if shanahan can help to stabilize the sense of crisis around some of these issues that are in play right now, it is possible that trump could adapt toward being impressed with him. remember, shanahan has been approved by the u.s. senate and it was a pretty overwhelming vote. i think only seven people voted against him. so that would weigh in his favor. but weighing against him is that, again, this guy, like him or dislike him, physically embodies the military industrial complex, and there is going to be a lot of people in congress who have at least some discomfort with that because boeing, his long-time company, shanahan's long-time company, is so involved with negotiations and issues with the pentagon. >> yeah. some of which was just outlined in my conversation with the representative of california. i do want to ask you about how the military in general, via
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the pentagon, is taking to secretary mattis's resignation, potentially being pushed out. but overall, what's the tenor of things inside the pentagon relative to mattis's departure? >> it's not good and hasn't been for some time. one more that i think that goes hand in hand with this. mattis is revered, was beloved among the military, but his star was fading the last few months with every unpopular trump decision that he agreed to enact dutifully that was not unlawful. but he did his job. every time something like that happened a lot of folks thought this is one more lit on mattis's legacy and how could he keep doing this. it was syria that broke the back. but that was the one that broke the back. one other part of shanahan to consider.
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shanahan is behind -- he's the man that signed the order that has kept the defense department leaders from doing more public events. so under donald trump, mattis has done a really good job of trying to keep the military of the public eye and out of politics. a lot of people have said, to his detriment, we've had very few press briefings, few reporters traveling with him. he doesn't go around making speeches, he doesn't go to the think tanks very often, and a lot of people think ultimately that hurt him, like there could be constituencies like staying in syria had he been more prominently featured in his public life. shanahan is the guy who ordered the rest of the defense department to stop going to the big conferences in the world, to stay out of the building, stay out of the public eye. we've had a lack of attention on the pentagon's issues, on america's foreign policy issues, especially military hard issues like the counterterrorism wars.
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not the iran deal, not the negotiations with north korea, but the counterterrorism wars, which is why yemen suddenly becomes a big surprise after the khashoggi event when they were keeping tabs on that a lot. a guy like shanahan, he is a well-respected executive but he's not a politician. he ordered the shutdown of the pentagon's mouthpieces and i'm not sure how much congress will support a guy like that. >> all right, kevin barren, i'm going to release you in case you have holiday shopping to do -- >> of course, i do. >> of course you do. the acting chief of staff said just a short time ago downplaying results of disarray in the white house. let's take a listen to that. >> this is what washington looks like when you have a president who refuses to sort of go along to get along. you're seeing a fight over border security just like we had
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a fight over taxes, a fight over deregulation, a fight over trade, a fight over syria, so here's what it looks like. >> these are the portrait of the president walking a very lonely path. we have strategist jon nichols stays with me. i'm going to go to you first, john, on the breaking news one more time about patrick shanahan with regard to how this affects anything in terms of the staffing within the white house. does this make a difference at all, do you think? >> oh, sure, it makes a difference, because we see an admission as regards the chaos. trump read -- i agree with your assessment in previous conversation. i think trump finally read the mattis resignation letter, knew that he wasn't going to keep working with mattis. but he also knew that this sense of chaos is huge and of very
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serious concern. i think that's why he went immediately to shanahan rather than having some other person or perhaps keeping mattis a little longer. shanahan is someone who has been approved by the senate. i think the president here today is is, amazingly enough, doing sort of a responsible thing. >> you just heard a downplay to all the chaos, but is this what it looks like when a president disrupts the norms of d.c.? >> it's the president disrupting the norms but it's also a president more and more isolated from, i think, his political and personal inner circle and certainly a good chunk of congress, i imagine. i think to some extent there is some connection between the shutdown & tand the shanahan appointment and announcement, because if he's losing respect to the wall, maybe he thinks there is something he can gain
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from this space force. there is discussion around where this space force should be around the pentagon. maybe in some circles that's really legitimate, but i think it carries a larger minority for the president to be able to go back to his base, which i think is shrinking, to be able to say we're producing x for you because this border wall doesn't seem like a win for him. >> we have to remember a week and change ago said he would proudly take the blame for the shutdown. now he's blaming the democrats. didn't trump set him up for this? the ball still seems to be in the gop's court. >> of course it is, and it's the third government shutdown this year with republicans in control of everything. if we can't manage it when we're in control of everything, how is it that the president is going to be able to do something come january? the president is mostly concerned about the investigations that are coming after him, the new subpoena power by the incoming congress
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the democrats will have, and you've heard me say this before, i feel like he's in a room with no doors. he can't escape. he has an acting attorney general, an acting chief of staff, an acting secretary of defense. seven investigations outside of his white house and a stock market that hasn't been this bad since the great depression, you know, december of the great depression. this is not a place where things are going along swimmingly. >> so, john, the "new york times" paints this. the swirl of recent days, a government shutdown, spiraling scandals, tumbling stock markets, abrupt troop withdrawals and the resignation of his alienated defense secretary has left the impression of a presidency at risk of spinning out of control. my question is this. since you're outside the beltway loop, does this discredit the president, or do you think anybody is paying attention? >> that's two separate
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questions. does it look chaotic to the people who are paying attention? without a doubt. those following this administration did move, i think, to a higher level of alert, if you will, with the mattis resignation, and what's happening here isn't going to calm that at all. by the same token, this has been such an incredibly chaotic administration for so long that i think there are people who have developed a second skin as regards this. they can deal with a measure of it. what i think is the crisis thing is what susan is referencing there sort of at the end. what people are paying attention to, and i do hear this a lot, is what's going on with the stock market. because people know that -- the thing that's kept trump above water with a lot of folks is this argument that the economy is doing well. we can debate whether it's really doing as well as he says, but that sense of it doing well with that stock market having such a bad end of the year, and people are all readjusting their
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401(k)s and everything, this is real stuff and this will haunt the president unless it takes a turn. >> well, and i'm just about out of time, but to you both, bazel and susan, how much is the stock market going to shake what he decides to do in 2019? bazel, you first. >> oh, he's definitely paying attention to it, this and other things he's paying attention to which to him are attacks on his credibility and authority as president. but it makes his ability to go out and engage his base less and less effective. everything that was said before is absolutely correct on what happens when the democrats take over the house in a couple weeks. he further paints himself into this corner that becomes increasingly difficult to get out of. >> it affects him bigly. >> i think the president said something like that before, okay. thanks to all three of you for the breaking news assessment and
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your weighing in on all of it. more part of the headline every day, peter baker wrote it and we're going to talk to him after the break. r the break. (vo) quick, the quicker picker upper! bounty picks up messes quicker, and is two times more absorbent than the leading ordinary brand. (man and pirate girl) ahoy! (laughing) (vo) bounty, the quicker picker upper.
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